There is also an air of exclusivity with a prestige brand. Quality and perceived status are important to customers who shop prestige, but they are also “looking to purchase something that not everyone has,” explains Kelley Lovelace, president of Luxury Retail Consultants.
While some household brand names are immediately connected with luxury, not all luxury brands are multinational enterprises. Poelmans calls it a “new wave of luxury.” She explains, “There are a lot of small brands that are luxury brands because there’s craftsmanship and detail behind it.”
Poelmans takes care to carry beauty brands that are backed by a story, whether it is the story of the product’s craftsmanship or a vignette about the passion that inspired the concept. She believes that luxury products should also be sold through their brand story; not just on the informational facts.
As with the products on their shelves, retailers looking to capture luxury-loving audiences must offer their consumers more than its mass-market counterparts.
Customer service takes center stage in luxury retail. In the case of SKINS 6|2 COSMETICS, customer service wears many different hats. It involves approaching a customer at the most appropriate time in the purchase process, listening to the customer’s needs, and providing consultations and in-depth information about the brand. Poelmans also greatly believes in the power of demonstration, and readily offers samples and product testing on the store floor.
“We don’t have any incentives for our sales associates on any particular brands. It’s about advising the consumers. That’s really the difference between high-end and mainstream sales floors. We have the luxury and the time to really advise our customers,” says Poelmans.
Lovelace explains the difference between luxury retailers and mass retailers in terms of titles. Mass retailers hire a “clerk” while a luxury retailer needs a “sales professional,” she says. Sales professionals are “trained by the brands they are selling to the consumer; and the transaction is a business transaction, not just scanning a bar code and swiping a credit card,” Lovelace says. “They need to be trained on the products they sell, on selling technique, and should be empowered to make decisions to please their customers.”